This Russian Official Has Been Accused Of Sexual Harassment. But Almost Everyone Is Defending Him.

Leonid Slutsky, the head of the Duma's foreign affairs committee, has been accused by at least three journalists of inappropriately touching them.

This is Leonid Slutsky, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the Russian parliament's lower house, or the State Duma. And over the last few weeks, he's been at the center of what should be a massive sexual harassment scandal.

Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

But despite multiple women coming forward to accuse him of groping them — including one who recorded audio of his advances — he's been getting little to no pressure to resign, or even change his ways, from his fellow lawmakers.

Last month, independent TV station Dozhd reported that three women, who wished to remain anonymous, had been groped and otherwise harassed by Slutsky over the years.

Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

Television reporter Yekaterina Kotrikadze soon thereafter publicly accused Slutsky of pushing her against the wall in his office during a meeting and attempting to kiss her in 2011.

Darya Zhuk, a Dozhd producer, then also claimed that Slutsky had harassed her, attempting to touch and kiss her at the station's studio in 2014.


“I have only one question: Are you still going to deny this? Aren’t you ashamed to be working in the parliament and behave this way?” Zhuk asks in a video message to Slutsky.

Then on Tuesday, BBC reporter Farida Rustamova dropped a bombshell, revealing that a year ago Slutsky had approached her as well — and she had an audio recording of the encounter.

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According to the BBC, which has not published the audio as of this time, Slutsky can be heard on the recording telling her, "You're trying to get away from me. You don't want to kiss me. You've hurt my feelings."

"Great, you'll be his wife, and my mistress," Slutsky reportedly said in response to Rustamova telling him she had a boyfriend she hoped to marry. He then, in her telling, began "running his hand, the flat of his palm, up against my nether region."

Rustamova — who was one of the women who first spoke to Dozhd anonymously — later posted on Facebook that while nobody had threatened her over the report, she was still concerned, as Slutsky is a powerful member of parliament.

Facebook: frustamova

Slutsky has brushed off the claims so far and denied any wrongdoing. When the first accusations emerged, he took to Facebook to say that they were an attempt to "project him as Harvey Weinstein."

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In the comments of that post, Slutsky joked that he would need time to find journalists for his friends — including two state-level politicians — to share as well.

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"Anton Morozov: Leonid Eduardovich, this is outrageous! Blame other members of MVD. I am ready to take on a couple of [female] journalists!

Leonid: We’ll discuss.

Alex Batrazovi Gabisov: I will also take 3 on

Leonid: Slow down, colleagues! Where will I find so many female journalists for you?

Alex: Some you will find we will find the rest.

Aleksey: I can take 3–4 too, but cute ones

Alexandr: That’s what a real team means! With Anton you can go to the reconnaissance!

Aleksey: So will there be [female] journalists or not?"

Slutsky, a favorite among the far right globally and a member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, whose leader once told an aide to rape a journalist on live TV, isn't feeling any pressure from his fellow Duma members yet.

Alexander Nemenov / AFP / Getty Images

In fact, he claims that his standing with them has improved in light of the claims.

As recently as last week, before Rustamova added her name to the accusations, Slutsky was claiming that the scandal had already petered out. “We should just proceed from [the fact] that this hit job has been extinguished and that it’s over,” he told Russian newspaper Vedemosti, according to the Moscow Times.

“It’s surprising that there were no Ukrainian or American women journalists,” he added, noting that Kotrikaze, who works for a Russian station, has Georgian nationality.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the Duma, seemed to prove on Wednesday that Slutsky's colleagues have his back. “You think working in the Duma is dangerous? Well, change your job," he reportedly said.

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"Let's leave politics to politicians," he told Russian news outlet Vedomosti. "We'll look into it. But there are always two sides to a story."

"So if, following a legal process, this turns out to be a provocation, then what do we do? If you offend somebody, you should apologize. If you provoke somebody, you should bear responsibility."

And it isn't just the men in the Duma. “If a woman doesn’t want it, no one will harass her,” Tamara Pletneva, who heads the Duma's Committee for Families, Women and Children, reportedly said, quoting a popular Russian saying. She also said women “would be better off if they dressed modestly ... and weren’t going around with bare bellies.”

But by Thursday, Slutsky had begun to change his tune after the ethics committee reportedly asked him to explain himself. So he again went to Facebook to talk about the accusations — and praise International Women's Day.

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"Dear Women!" he wrote. "From all my soul congratulations to you on international women's day! I wish good health, mental strength and simple human happiness!"

"I'll take this opportunity to ask forgiveness from those of you who I at some point willingly or unwillingly caused any distress," he continued. "Trust me, it was not malicious."

As it stands, unlike in the US when the Weinstein scandal broke, there's little legal recourse for the women Slutsky allegedly groped — there is nothing in the law that covers the topic of sexual harassment.

Alexander Nemenov / AFP / Getty Images

Volodin said that the women should complain to the Duma's ethics committee — something Rustamova and Zhuk have done.

But independent media is calling for swifter action, namely Slutsky's resignation. Both Meduza and Vedomosti published editorials on Wednesday demanding that Slutsky either step down or be forced out.

"We know, which means they also know, that deputy Leonid Slutsky has been sexually harassing press pool journalists for many years," Meduza's editorial board wrote. "We know, which means they also know, that these allegations have been verified openly by multiple independent sources and an audio recording. We know, which means they also know, that Slutsky doesn’t even recognize these allegations, ridiculing his accusers and refusing to apologize. We know, which means they also know, that Slutsky will continue to harass women again and again, if he keeps his seat and faces no consequences. And it won’t only be Slutsky.

"And we know, which means the Duma also knows, that Leonid Slutsky must step down on his own or be forced to resign."

Jane Lytvynenko contributed reporting to this story from Toronto.